Malibu Mourns ‘Legendary’ Local Surfer

An outpouring of love flooded social media this weekend after a local surfer died at Zuma Beach on Saturday, Sept. 19. 

Shortly after 11 a.m. Saturday morning, longtime Malibuite Dwight “Doc” Strayer suffered a medical emergency after catching a wave into the shore right in front of Tower 13 at Zuma Beach, LA County Lifeguard Captain Arthur Lester confirmed Tuesday. After being alerted to the medical emergency, surfers and lifeguards pulled Strayer from the shallows. “They were able to get him to high and dry, where they initiated CPR,” Lester said. 

“Come on, Doc, come on, you can make it, we love you,” onlookers said, according to The Malibu Times staff member Neda Bayat, who was there that day and described the emotional scene. 

Surf instructor Douglas Cavanaugh, according to a social media post, estimated that lifeguards attempted to resuscitate Strayer for 45 minutes, calling the lifeguards “amazing.” 

But CPR attempts were unsuccessful. LA County Fire Department medics transported Strayer to a nearby hospital where he died. He was 63 years old.

A regular fixture in local surf culture, Strayer surfed at Zuma daily for decades. 


Lester told The Malibu Times that many of the Zuma Beach lifeguards had surfed next to Strayer since they were children. Many remembered how they waved to Strayer every morning and spent time with him when off duty. Lester said the entire lifeguard division was affected by Strayer’s death.

“It was a sad day for the entire Zuma Beach and Malibu community as this individual was a legendary surfer,” Lester said, mentioning that the Zuma lifeguard providing details to him about the incident was nearly in tears while discussing it on the phone. 

“Every single person in the line-up was friends with this guy,” Lester said. On Facebook and Instagram, hundreds have shared memories and photos of Strayer, describing him as “king of the 1-foot.”

Mark Gruskin said on Facebook that he felt “shocked and saddened.”

“[Strayer] was part of the landscape of Zuma, and one of the best guys ever to go on a surf trip with—nonstop entertainment,” Gruskin wrote. “There should be a statue erected in his honor at Tower 13! RIP Doc and heart goes out to Michelle.”

Also on Facebook, Henry Zinman shared this memory: “I caught a one-footer at the rock years ago and as [Strayer] paddled out, he yelled, ‘You’re surfin’!!’ “Thank you, Doc.”

Survived by his wife Michelle, some of Strayer’s family members have set up an online memorial for him. There, Tate Brazas, who said she was his niece, confirmed that Strayer had suffered a heart attack in the water. 

“To call this loss ‘unexpected’ would be a wild understatement,” she wrote. “Dwight was a lifelong athlete and in seemingly great health.” 

Brazas went on to share a photo of Strayer feeding a wild blue scrub jay, whom she said Strayer and his wife named “Scrubby” after befriending the bird by feeding him peanuts. Brazas described Strayer as “a beloved husband to my aunt Michelle, local Malibu surf legend and devoted Lakers fan.”


Strayer’s memorial page can be found at

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